We all know that Edison invented the phonograph, but did you know that he didn’t make the first sound recording? His breakthrough came in 1877, but last week the first known recording, a10-second clip of a French folk song, “Au Clair De La Lune,” made in 1860, was played. It was made using a phonautograph, the recording being etched by a needle onto paper coveredwith soot. The needle was moved by a diaphragm that responded to sound, although the whole thing was cranked by hand. Curiously, the recording couldn’t be played back using the equipment– instead, US scientists had to create a virtual stylus. David Giovanni, the audio historian who found the recording, told AP, "When I firstheard the recording as you hear it … it was magical, so ethereal. The fact is it’s recorded in smoke. The voice is coming out from behind this screen of aural smoke." The phonautographwas invented by a Parisian, Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville, who made the recording on April 9, 1860. The sound was finally captured by a group called FirstSounds who worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, where high resolution digital scans of the paper recording were made and played with a digital stylus.
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